Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gee Whiz, a Live Blog!

The baseball season is here! The RailCats open the spring today at 11 a.m. and we'll have a live blog running all game long live from Silver Cross Field to keep you updated. The best part? Ask a question in the comments today and we'll answer it. We promise.

So have at it RailCats fans. If you've ever wanted to know anything about the 2009 team, the offseason, the traffic on I-80, the economy, swine flu, macroeconomics or anything else, now is the time. You ask, we answer. Let us have it in the comments, we'll be here live at 11 a.m. to get started.

And if you're into it, Tweet at us:
www.twitter.com/railcats We'll follow you back because that's just the way we roll.

And we're off. First live blog of the year underway and the 'Hammers are on the field in Joliet. Aaron Trolia - Joliet's ace in 2008 - will start opposed by Tony Cogan, who is scheduled to pitch the first three innings.

No big surprises in the RailCats lineup, but a couple notes. Isaac Omura will bat cleanup behind McNamee, Pecci & Guerrero, and Paul Bartolucci (a middle infielder) will start in left.

Joliet, meanwhile, has 10 players (two DHs) in the starting lineup.

It's spring.

Drop us a line in the comments.

Eric McNamee gets the game started and strikes out on a hard 3-2 pitch from Trolia. Pecci pops up and Guerrero whiffs to follow, ending a 1-2-3 first.

Press box situation here is nice. The RailCats are well-represented. We've got both Mike Osipoff of the Post-Tribune and The Times Hillary Smith, and they may or may not also be live blogging. No need to check though.

Tony Cogan figures to be the RailCats Opening Day starter, and he makes the start today. Cogan's coming off an unheralded yet terrific 2008 and again faces a lot of pressure to carry an inexpereinced rotation. He's going to need to get out of the gate quickly once the season starts to give the 'Cats a rock to rely on.

A couple new Joliet outfielders start the game off, Adam Klein flies out to center but K.C. Herron rips a long double off the wall one batter later. Cogan gets Joey Gomes (DH #1) to pop out but Freddie Thon follows with a home run to right and the JackHammers break into the scoring column, now leading 2-0.

We've got a question - AND an answer!
Anonymous asks, "What's the linuep today?"

Excellent question, anonymous. Here's what we've got.

Eric McNamee, 2B
Jay Pecci, SS
Cristian Guerrero, RF
Isaac Omura, 3B
Mike Rohde, 1B
Rob Marconi, CF
Mike Massaro, DH
Paul Bartolucci, LF
Nate McKeon, C

Adam Klein, CF
K.C. Herron, LF
Joey Gomes, DH
Freddie Thon, DH
Phil Avlas, C
Andrew Pickney, 3B
Wally Backman, Jr., 2B
Kevin Rios, SS
Mike Coles, RF
Tim Alberts, 1B

Mike Rohde looks like he's in midseason form, stroking a long double off the wall in center. Rohde's worked hard this offseason to try and turn some of those 25 doubles from 2008 into more home runs, and his double today went about 390 feet.

But ... the RailCats can't do anything with it, and Trolia's through two innings scoreless.

This game is NOT open to the public but that has not stopped one die-hard RailCats fan. We need this man's name, because he's broken into Silver Cross Field to watch an exhibition game during work hours just to watch a game that will have 20 pitching changes, 30 lineup quirks and no PA/entertainment or, of course, other fans.

This man is a hero. Take note RailCats fans, that's how you support this team.

Another hard hit ball, this time a triple into the left-center field gap for Andrew Pinckney. He comes in to score on a groundout and it's 3-0 Joliet. After a Mike Coles (former RailCat!) single, Tim Alberts triples him in and Klein bunt single scores another. The 'Hammers lead 5-0 after two and Cogan is glad this game doesn't count.

Another Question
It turns out anonymous is from Texas. Either that or there are two anonymouses (?). Anyways, thanks for checking in.

More Questions!

Rule 10 asks two questions (bonus points for that).

First up, "Any word on the pitching today?" In fact, yes, there is word. Cogan will throw the first three followed in order by Aaron Cook, Eddie De la Cruz and Jon Mueller for two innings each.

Next, "How odd is it to watch a baseball game that's not open to the public?" A little odd, honestly, but not too bad. I will say the stranger thing will be the 10-man lineups, four-out innings and other eccentricities that this game will no doubt feature.

The Questions are Flying In!
Anonymous wants to know the latest on Esquer's hand.

Here's the latest on Esquer's hand. He had 10 stitches put in and will have them removed either today or tomorrow. Once he has that done, Esquer should be here Wednesday and will likely be with the team in St. Paul later this week.

Trolia gets the RailCats in order again in the third, striking out McKeon and McNamee. He looks in midseason form. Still 5-0 Joliet going to the bottom of the third.

Question from Kerouac
What's the update on Tanner Townsend?

Well, Kerouac, I wish the news was better. Tanner did have back surgery and will be out for a while, at least through the rest of the this month. At the moment, he's on the roster at Double-A Jackhsonville (along with Wille Glen), which would lead me to believe when he does get back that should be his starting destination. Tanner had an excellent winter in Puerto Rico where he was crushing the ball, so the injury is obviously disappointing.

Joliet's dueling DHs (Gomes & Thon) hit the ball hard but right at fielders, and Cogan gets through his first 1-2-3 innings in the third. On the the fourth, still 5-0.

Pitching change for Joliet, Trolia allows only one hit in three innings and strikes out five. He was one of the toughest pitchers in the league in the second half last year and he looked dynamite today.

Alex Vanoeveren on now for Joliet, a professional rookie from Washington, and Pecci and Guerrero greet the youngster with back-to-back sharp singles. After two outs, Rob Marconi delievers the RailCats a run, doubling off the wall in left. Guerrero is held at third - a little cautious for my liking but hey, Kenny Graham's in spring training too. [Kidding, Kenny].

More two-out hitting from the RailCats. Newcomer Mike Massaro singles under the glove of second baseman Wally Backman, Jr. to plate Guerrero and Marconi, and the RailCats are back in it at 5-3. Massaro swipes second on top of it, then walks home when Paul Bartolucci smokes a double into the leftfield corner, and now Bartolucci scores on a double from Nate McKeon. That's four straight run-scoring, two-out hits and this game is tied at five!

And we're still going in the fourth, pitching coach Floyd Youans to the mound for a chat.

Pitching change for Joliet.

Here's your first fun spring training moment of the year. The new pitcher is, well, we don't know for sure. The consensus is it's probably non-roster right-hander Jason Novak. We'll got with that.

The RailCats have hit around and Pecci is the first to face Novak with two on. Jay pops out to third and the inning is over, but a five spot on the board - all coming with two outs. It's 5-5 in Joliet.

Tony Cogan is off the hook after a rough day, allowing five runs on six hits in three innings. Aaron Cook is up next. Could be an interesting spring for Cook, especially with the RailCats without a closer. You would have to believe this guy has a shot at nailing down that job after a pretty dominating August last year with the RailCats. He'll be on for two innings.

Whoa. Andrew Pinckney, new Joliet third baseman, follows up his second inning triple with a mammoth home run to straightaway center. Joliet quickly back in front 6-5. Wally Backman, Jr. comes up next and singles, then steals second (questionably ... looked out from here) and scores on a Kevin Rios single.

So much for pitchers being ahead of hitters in the spring. It's 7-5 Joliet after four innings.

Two New Questions
Thanks for the questions, folks, keep 'em coming.

First, for Kerouac, next Tuesday's exhibition game is open to the public, like every RailCats exhibtion game. The Monday and Wednesday games are free, Tuesday's game will be just like a regular season RailCats game with between-inning contests, Tommy Williams on PA and more, but it will also cost $4 to attend. But fear not - proceeds from the game will be donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana.

Next up, news for Anonymous on Willie Glen. Unfortunately, I'm in the dark on Willie's current condition. I do know that this offseason he had arm surgery to fix a lingering problem that he pitched through last season (when he went to the Southern League All-Star Game despite the injury). I'll bring you folks an update on the latest from Glen when I get it.

The slugfest continues in the fifth where Guerrero is grazed by a pitch and Isaac Omura checks in with a ringing single to right-center. The RailCats eventually load the bases with one out, but Novak dances out of trouble, getting Massaro to pop up to shortstop and Bartolucci to fly out to center.

We're halfway home, still 7-5 'Hammers.

Aaron Cook settles down for a quick fifth, taking care of Joliet in order in the fifth - and getting a couple pretty good hitters (Gomes & Thon) to ground out.

Still 7-5 Joliet, throught five.

New pitcher for Joliet: Tall lefty Ryan Paul (who despite no resemblance IS in fact Chris Paul's twin brother)

First lineup change for the RailCats as Brett Wallace steps in and flies out to right on a nice play made by Coles. Jeff Beachum also inserted into the lineup, he follows and strikes out. Brandon Morgan checks in for the first time with two outs and walks on four pitches to get on with two outs, but Guerrero grounds out and the inning is over.

Good inning for Paul, and we go to the bottom of the sixth.

Pitching change for the RailCats, with Eddie De la Cruz now on. Final line on Cook: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB

De la Cruz - second straight sidearmer - looks pretty good in his first inning, striking out Ryan Arcadia and getting Wally Backman, Jr. to fly out to left. Young Brandon Morgan is in left, competing for a job with Paul Bartolucci. Both are infielders by trade, but Tagert wants one of them to be a jack-of-all-trades utility man, so they're showing their stuff in left while Steve Haake takes the day off.

Perfect inning for De la Cruz, the wheels have fallen off the offensive locomotive, it's still 7-5 into the seventh.

Pitching change for Joliet. Drew Shetrone, who was excellent last year for the 'Hammers before the Yankees signed him, is in. Shetrone was released this spring by the Bombers.

The RailCats do little in the seventh, Omura walks to lead off but Shetrone gets the next three in order. The game has lost a lot of steam, still 7-5 Joliet.

Eddie De la Cruz is the best pitcher so far for the RailCats, getting through another inning unscathed. De la Cruz finishes his two innings without allowing a hit, although the Dominican native did walk two in the seventh.
Time for the 'Cats to get some runs as we go to the eighth still 7-5 Joliet.

Pitching chage for Joliet (again). Big (real big) left-hander Devin Anderson into the game. Listed at 6'5", 245 pounds, Anderson is every inch and pound of that.

Jeff Beachum is in the book today, with a two-out swinging bunt single down the third base line. But that's it for the 'Cats in the eighth, only one more chance to score still down two.

The dude is still here, it's incredible. He's taken off the jersey (wearing one of road greys) but he's still in RailCats cap with a black t-shirt and jeans, and sitting in the very last row of the very last section down the third base line. Probably hiding out from security. Good move my man, way to hang in there.

Pitching change for the RailCats. Right-hander Jon Mueller, a former Cubs farmhand, is on. Mueller is the younger brother of former RailCat Dale Mueller and the proud wearer of this tremedous mustache:

That is, by far, the greatest mustache in RailCats history. Welcome to the record books, Jon.

As a pitcher, he's not bad either. Aside from an Andrew Sweet double, Mueller gets through the eighth unscathed. Last chance for the RailCats to tie or win it, going to the ninth down 7-5.

Pitching Change for Joliet: Jason Richardson on. 27-year-old independent league veteran.

John Torres is here today after getting spotted at the team's open tryout. He's played a couple innings in right, and he gets his first at bat here in the ninth, grounding out to third base. The RailCats go in order, so the game is ov ... well, not quite yet. We'll have a bottom of the ninth to give Johnny Mustache another inning of work.

Someone hits into a 4-6-3 double play (interest in this game is waning in the press box since, you know, the game is over). And Mueller gets Mike Coles to roll one back to him to officially end this game. All mustache-loving aside, Mueller actually looked quite impressive in his RailCats debut.

Live blog number on in the books for 2009. Thanks for the questions and comments, and don't forget to check out this blog - the (Rail)Cats Meow, don't you know - during the season, along with our Twitter (twitter.com/railcats) and the all-new www.railcatsbaseball.com.

Final score: Joliet 7, RailCats 5

The RailCats are in Schaumburg tomorrow at 2:30 and we'll have you covered. Check back here to see just how we'll be covering that game.

Now get back to work!

Friday, May 1, 2009

High School Challenge Results: May 1-4

U. S. Steel Yard
Friday, May 1, 2009

T-F North 2, T-F South 1

Notes: T-F North’s Adalberto Galvan threw a complete game no-hitter, allowing only four baserunners; Galvan was named his team’s Most Valuable Player; The Meteors won the game on a ninth inning single by Logan Frey, scoring Elijaben Israel who had tripled; Kyle Zegarac started on the mound for T-F South and allowed one run on two hits in four innings, earning his team’s MVP award.

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hebron 8, Gary West Side 2

Notes: MVPs - Hebron's Larry Spore Jr.; West Side's Mike Swayne

U. S. Steel Yard
Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hammond 13, Bowman Academy 1 (5 innings)

Notes: MVPs - Hammond's Ricky Vasquez; Bowman's LeVon Whittaker

U. S. Steel Yard
Monday, May 4, 2009

LaPorte 4, Chesterton 1

Notes: The total attendance of 707 marks the largest crowd in the seven-year history of the High School Challenge; the record broke the previous mark of 598 also set by Chesterton and LaPorte; Slicers starter Kevin Upp allowed only two hits in a complete game win, earning his team’s Most Valuable Player honors; Chesterton starter Glenn Peterson was named his team’s MVP.